From our stories, our experiences, comes everything that makes us us. It is easy to relate to ourselves. After all, we know us better than anyone, right? The more difficult task is relating to others on their level, based on their experience, with regard to their feelings, thoughts and goals. As a teacher, trainer, or even just a participant in this thing called “life” it is imperative that we understand that every individual has a unique story, much of which is unwritten. We will have the honor of contributing part of that story and can, if we so choose, write some really good stuff. Allow me to share some of the “stuff” that teachers have contributed to my story…
The best teacher I ever had was Stanley Henderson, my college algebra teacher at a local college. He started out the semester talking with us about math anxiety, how real it was, and how we could get past it. It was like he was reading my mind. I mean the struggle was real, folks. I would break out in hives anytime I saw a number in close proximity to a letter. Ok, maybe not literally, but close. I not only completed his course, but managed to pull out an “A”. Stunning really.
My worst teacher was my high school calculus teacher. We’ll call her Ms. Sunshine. Yes, I made an attempt of calculus my senior year, which is likely responsible for my math allergies. I dared to ask Ms. Sunshine for help my first week of class. If I remember right, it was something to do with a co-sign or someone throwing a tangent. As I approached her desk a few minutes before class started and kneeled next to her majesty with my book opened to the page in question, I could detect the look of annoyance on her face but I dared to speak anyway. I told her I really didn’t understand the problem. She closed my book for me (isn’t that sweet?) and loudly informed me (and the rest of the class… and I think the next town over) that if I couldn’t understand something in the first week, then I would just be wasting her time and I needed to move on so she could get back to teaching. Now don’t get me wrong, she may have saved my life. I really can’t even explain why I was going to take her class. However, the experience left me a bit distrustful of teachers, and with an aversion to math.
Encouragement can go a very long way when dealing with just about anyone. By the same token a little discouragement can block the path of individual growth and put a proverbial wrench in the works of potential. You can see at a glance by the size of the two paragraphs above which made the bigger impact on my life. I firmly believe that correction should be tempered with a double-dose of encouragement. In other words, for every one thing you find wrong, point out two that you find right.
Professor Henderson brought out the best in me. He offered encouragement and a solution. Ms. Sunshine, on the other hand, offered me my head on a platter with a side of humiliation. I chose at some point in my life to be an encourager of people; to try to bring out the best in them like Professor Henderson did for me. Perhaps these two experiences, and others like them, shaped the way I deal with others and gave me insight that can only be gained from personal experience. In that regard, none of it has been wasted and so I am thankful even for the Ms. Sunshine’s in my life.